September 2010  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

A Busy August

We hope your August was great. The UpWrite Press staff had a great month, but it was a busy one. As a result, our eTips ran behind. This month we’re catching up by including the August “Word Pair” and the “Writers’ Forum” responses in this issue of eTips. We hope you enjoy the additional content.

Technical Writing

The purpose of technical writing is to accurately convey complex information that your reader needs to complete a project or task. Here are a few tips for creating effective technical writing.

  • Avoid confusing, loaded, or ambiguous words. Produce precise, objective text, avoiding any uncertain language. Make sure each word is important to your message and leaves no room for doubt or confusion.
  • Know your audience. Is your reader knowledgeable about your subject, or completely new to the ideas you are presenting? This will make a difference in how deeply you go into the topic and the language you use to do so. That leads us to our next point…
  • Avoid jargon whenever possible. If you must use technical language, be sure to define the terms for anyone who might be unfamiliar with them.
  • Be concise. Shorten long passages and replace wordy phrases with single terms whenever possible. Avoid unnecessary repetition of words or ideas, and use brief, clear sentences.
  • Be aware of diversity. Your audience will probably comprise a variety of readers with an assortment of cultural backgrounds, so keep your language generally accessible.

Also remember that technical writing, while designed to present information in a clear, businesslike manner, doesn’t have to be dry and boring. Use active verbs and vary your sentence style and length to keep the reader’s interest and infuse life into your information.

For help in all areas of business writing, check out Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace—just one of the handy business writing materials from UpWrite Press.

Teacher Tips

Are you planning a training session? Here are a few factors to keep in mind. First, consider how many people will be involved in the training, and then examine the learning levels and styles of your audience. You also need to know your timeline for the training—do you have several sessions, or must you get your information across in a single afternoon, or even a single hour? Can someone within your corporate structure provide the training, or must you contact an outside trainer? If the latter is the case, what is your budget? Do your pretraining research early to create an efficient, effective session.


That Little Extra

It’s likely been drilled into you to back up information, and while you can do that on a company server, there’s always the fear of a network failure. So you dutifully plug in that little flash drive or CD and copy away, storing your media in a safe place. That’s great, but what happens when you must revise and edit information, and then back that up? All too often, you probably end up with multiple versions of a file spread across multiple storage places.

You could just erase old files and replace them with the latest versions, but sometimes you want to keep multiple versions of a file in case you have to go back and check certain items. All those files can get really confusing, so how can you keep things in order and accessible?

One way is to keep a “working” backup—for example, a rewritable CD or single external drive, with all versions of a file either consecutively marked or clearly dated. These older or original versions should be kept in one digital folder, clearly marked “Older Versions,” “Originals,” or so on. Then, when the work is finalized, you can label it as such—for example, “DAVIS CONTRACT FINAL”—and keep it on a separate backup drive labeled “Final Files.” That way, you can go back to an older version if necessary to track the changes that were made, but you won’t get it confused with the final version.

August Word Pair: explicit, implicit

The words in this pair are actually direct opposites, so be sure to use the right one for the situation. Explicit means “something that is expressed directly or clearly defined,” as in this sentence:

He was quite explicit in his instructions, so we knew exactly what to do.

On the other hand, implicit means “something that is not stated, but is implied”:

While he didn’t state his wishes directly, they were implicit in the way he looked at us.

An easy way to remember the difference between these words is to look at the way each begins. The prefix “ex” means “out,” so you can remember that explicit refers to words that have been “spoken out.” The prefix “im,” however, suggests “not,” so implicit refers to words that are “not spoken.”

August Writers’ Forum

More and more people are working at least part-time at a home-based business. If you are one of them, how do you keep your home office separate from everyday living, both physically and mentally? Share your best tip, or tell about a problem you encountered and how you solved it.

Here are some of the responses we received on the subject.

The last time we heard from Sandi Esposito of Dallas, she was working in an office. Since then, she became a victim of the economic downturn and now works as a consultant out of her home. There, she writes, she has discovered new challenges.

I never realized how difficult it would be to work at home. With no one to answer to but myself, it’s tempting to just goof off and watch TV. Then there’s the housework, the laundry, the phone interruptions, and more. So I had to get tough. Since I don’t have a separate room for my office, I had to make a concrete difference between work and home. I bought a cheap folding screen and set it up around my desk in the living room. Just having that physical barrier between “office” and home helped a lot.

Sylvie Delgado of Boston actually uses her home as her place of business.

My whole house is my office—I live in a historic four-story city building that I turned into an antique shop. Each room is given over to a certain style or era, and people wander through during the hours that I set. The top floor is my apartment, closed to the public, but the rest of the house is my shop. It’s very convenient, and I work in an environment that I love. What could be better?

Interestingly, Michael Diggs of Orlando finds that working at home actually helps him maintain balance in his life, and he doesn’t try to divide the two more than necessary.

When I worked in the city, I often didn’t get home until late at night. I was missing a lot of my kids’ growing up. Being laid off was actually a blessing. I set up an office in a bedroom and established a nice little home-based business. As a plus, I get to spend more time with the family. I never make my wife or kids stay out, but I tell them if they want to be in with me, they have to have something quiet to do. Still, it is hard to keep working when three little faces are peering at you and begging you to play with them. Sometimes I do play hooky to do stuff with them, but I figure if I have more work to finish, I can just do it after they go to bed. I don’t miss any more swim meets or piano recitals, and I don’t really try to divide my life between work and home anymore. My income may be down, but my quality of life is really improved!

Of course, the best way to work at home is to have a separate office, like Jake Fein, a freelance writer who lives in Baltimore.

I have to have a separate office or I simply can’t work. When we were first married, my wife and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and that second bedroom stayed my office even after our first child was born. The baby slept in our room for more than a year until we could afford a bigger place. It may sound selfish, but I needed my office, a place where I could shut the door and simply work.

September Writers' Forum Topic

Here's your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we'll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

If there’s anything the current economy has taught us, it’s that nothing is certain and no one’s job is secure. How are you dealing with the uncertainty of the job market? Do you feel safe? Why or why not? Share your ideas and concerns, and you might help others who are concerned about the future.

E-mail your response to Write "September Writers' Forum" in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

We Want to Hear from You

Do you have a question about writing? We’d love to have the opportunity to address it. E-mail us your questions and comments, and we’ll answer them right here in eTips.

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Write for Business Blog

Entries for the month of August:

Avoiding Sentence Errors

Using the Right Word

Staff Articles


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Office Etiquette

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